Friday, 28 May 2021

En Avant!

 Still with the whole French thing. By Sunday I will have three infantry squads ready to go, I am now moving on the support units and will leave the last reserve squad until the end. Did I say end, I am now thinking of one motorised squad and one of colonial troops, why, because they are there and why not. I have also managed a few vehicles as well, leaving two more to go, I will need at least one truck if I get the Dragons Portes and maybe that nice Citroen staff car Rubicon does.

I have given each tank a different camouflage to get the most out of the fancy schemes the French used, they also had a colourful identity scheme involving the suits of playing cards, probably not the best way to identify tanks on the battlefield but it was only to last a few weeks anyway.

Schneider P16

Renault R35

Panhard 178

 My French interest continues with entertainment, I am lost for anything decent to watch at the moment and remembered reading a review of a French programme called "Call my Agent" about entertainment agents and their clients and the goings on at an agency in Paris. It is very modern in its outlook and depiction of modern 'norms' however despite this I am binge watching it.


I spent about a week twiddling my thumbs in the PO as it was very quiet and managed to clean up some figures, base and prime them along with the tanks in between having to get up and sell a stamp. Then, as usually happens I received three new map projects with at least one more to come all on the one day, I also found one on one of my extra drives which I had forgotten about, a large project but thankfully not required until October. The author for "The Onin War" is Japanese history expert Stephen Turnbull, I read one of his first books way back in 1977 and would certainly add it to a '10 best' list, and here I am 44 years later drawing maps for his latest tome, who would have thought.

 I will be having my first face to face game in about a year on Sunday, Fran, who played the Union commander in my recent campaign will this time be playing the Rebs. We are back at Elkhorn Tavern but this time the actual battle, it will be Fran's first game of Johnny Reb and this is an exciting scenario which is not too large but demands some hard decisions by both sides in order to win. The Confederate force is mainly green troops with poor weaponry, the Union forces have better weapons in some cases and slightly better morale however they are outnumbered and as the battle opens are spread out with half their forces still arriving. I am looking forward to this.


Our Atlantic naval campaign is picking up pace, the Royal Navy has lost the Hood and several cruisers are badly damaged, on the plus side at least three German heavy ships have gone to the bottom, one may be the Scharnhorst or Gneisenau but my commanders seem unable to identify most enemy ships. The German invasion of Iceland is also gathering pace and my plan now is to destroy the Kriegsmarines naval assets and then turn on their supply ships. I am still disturbed by the possible size of the enemy fleet and which capital ships are involved, there is a British invasion fleet on the way or gathering but the timing is not good as my fleet will be running out of fuel when the invasion fleet gets to Iceland.

My flagship

Sunday, 23 May 2021

What has Covid ever done for us....

 With the possibility of freedom approaching next month, unless the Sierra Leone or Equatorial Guinea or whatever variant they can scrounge up scuppers it, I thought I would look back on fifteen months of hell. Gaming was basically out of the window, so what did I do with all that time?

Although I had already started a move to the Eastern Front I spent a lot of time expanding the forces I had, I got caught up in the whole End of the Reich thing and moved my 1944 forces to take in the fall of Berlin, this involved a lot of new vehicles and several new troop types, Kriegsmarine,Volksturm and Hitler Youth for the Germans, assault engineers, airborne and NKVD for the Soviets. I caught the Ostfront bug as the time passed and I expanded my troops to cover the early battles, for the Russians this really meant only vehicles while for the Germans I needed a new platoon in jackboots and fieldgrey. I know there were differences in Soviet uniforms as the war progressed but as far as I know no manufacturer shows this and let's face it, who would know apart from 'that guy.' At the beginning of the Lockdown I also built an Airborne platoon for the British, why, I have no idea other than it was want rather than need. Added to all this was several more battalions for the Seven Years War forces, Scots and Irish for both the British and French. I was just about to hang up my brushes for a few months but now find myself building up a French force for 1940, I have thrown myself into this and am enjoying this quirky army with its old fashioned uniforms and colourful tanks.

 My terrain also benefited from my enforced incarceration. I found that I needed industrial buildings for a campaign so built up a full factory with mesh fencing, I was also given a stunning pithead from a guy in the village which really set off the industrial complex. I then went back to my Normandy stuff and added little bits here and there, scatter and new walls mainly with some extra trees. With Budapest and Berlin in mind I jumped in with both feet to build up an entire table of ruins, these are 90% done as I still want to find more rubble for the streets. Now that I can cover the whole war in the East I have also added some razed and ruined buildings which will be used for Stalingrad if I ever get that far.

Before Lockdown I always folded up and moved my table after a game, but I have now decided that as the space is actually mine and not the Post Office's I am going to leave it up, I have also moved all my wargame resources into the shop. Perhaps some people think this is inappropriate for a Post Office but I don't care, besides most people simply walk past the table and show complete disinterest.

I have managed some games and these were mainly solo with the help of friends who chose forces and helped with deployment and orders. I then branched out with several campaigns where again friends took charge of the forces involved while I just fought the battles. In the past couple of months I have experimented with remote gaming and have hosted a few and played in several. I was more enthusiastic at the beginning of the plague and things have kind of tailed off for now with hopefully the prospect of face to face games coming back.

 Can I blame Covid for all this, probably not, I have a tendency to jump in with both feet when I take up something new, I am reminded of this when I look at my 50+ WWI aircraft, my huge Old West town, half of which I have just mothballed, and my X-Wing starships. With the plague possibly ending I don't have anything on the cards for long term.

 The club has been given the green light for June 8 with 'anti covid measures' in place, at the moment I am not sure what these are so I am waiting to see before rejoicing. I do have that ACW game on the 30th and mate Mike Jordan got in touch for some War and Conquest in July, Mike's Romans are a real challenge and are desperate to fight the Thunderbolts.

Things are going well with the French, despite my moans about the awful artillery kits they have turned out to be quite nice once I fixed the 75mm and added paint and crews, I do wonder though why the crew of the 47mm anti-tank gun are lying down. I have built all the tanks and primed most of them along with several infantry squads, I am really looking forward to painting the bizarre camouflage schemes on the vehicles. 

75mm infantry gun

47mm anti tank gun

25mm anti tank gun

Infantry squad


Work in progress

Sunday, 16 May 2021

Sacre Bleu, mercy buckets

I received my second parcel of French this week, all of the tanks and guns I will need to keep the Poilu's happy, I had a brainwave and decided to get a brownish spray for the infantry and a yellowish spray for the base colour for the tanks. As the powers that be equate a spray paint can as the equivalent of an IED in a van I tried to get the best postage deal I could, I lost an hour of my life doing this. All the companies I checked either had one or the other colour not both, this would mean two lots of postage so a ballpark figure of approx £14, I tried several manufacturers, some wanted the same price for 100ml while others gave you 400ml. I tried one popular manufacturer only to hit a dead site and could not buy anything, I felt a headache coming on, really, so gave up, I shall use what I have in the house.

I looked up a painting guide for French WWII infantry and found that everything is basically the same colour, I also found that Army Painter spray Army Green is perfect for French Infantry, not the brown, so I bit the bullet and went back into the ether and ordered from the excellent Goblin Gaming, it was dispatched that very afternoon.

On looking through my parcel I was not overjoyed with the artillery pieces, OK, it doesn't take a genius to work out how to put the wheels etc. together but there are some fiddly wee bits which I had no idea belonged where. And out of the ten kits I got only three had instructions, a poor show which meant I had to find images online to check where pieces went. Hands up, I also managed to get the gun shield for the 75mm wrong and it did have instructions, bad ones obviously. During the week I did clean up most of the figures, prime and base a squad, build nine of the kits and paint the guns, which now look fine but 'that guy' might point out the lack of some fiddly bits that are now languishing in my bin.

I have finished my heavy limbers for the Seven Years War, one for each side, so all my artillery pieces now have a limber to go along with them, I only have six guns at the moment but it is more than enough for my small forces. I have spoken too soon, I still have one more light limber to get, I really must learn to check things before reaching for the plastic.

I was asked to give information on how I did my small gardens. I used some bases I had lying about along with the extra bases I got for the limbers, to these I added the odd box, sack, barrel or/and wheel from the spares bag. On a couple I used some coffee stirrers to make a plant bed, I painted these and when dry I sloshed on PVA and dipped them into my sand box, when this dries if you want a line of crops add more PVA in lines and pop on some more sand, until it stands out from the base. After this I paint the ground with Vallejo Flat Earth and drybrush with Vallejo Dark Sand, the crop rows I paint a dark brown, again to make them stand out, newly turned or watered soil. After this just glue some bushes, flower tufts or whatever and job done, for the plant beds I just cut up a strip of 'flowers' and added them inside the box, once this is done a smattering of grass and voila.

 Thanks to Phil Robinson I managed another online game, Chain of Command this time as Phil asked me to take command of some Volksgrenadiers for one of his campaign games. The British were really up against it in this game, I got the impression they had suffered in previous games and the Germans were pushing forward with all haste. I was tempted to take a Panzer IV as support but went for quantity over quality and got an extra infantry squad and extra command so that my troops would not be held up waiting for the right die roll to turn up.


My plan was to use my double LMG squad to provide covering fire while my other squads pushed forward to overwhelm the defence. For a change my plan worked really well, as my adjutant fed in the arriving forces my senior leaders kept the boys at the front line in action. I also managed a couple of double turns which allowed me to get my right flank squad right up to the road and into action against the nearby British, these suffered heavy losses which took out their 'bite' which allowed me to advance more troops almost with impunity. The second British squad entered and set up a defensive position at the rear of the table hoping to stop me getting a unit off the table which was my objective.

As Phil deliberated where to bring on his last squad his choices had been reduced due to one of my squads being so close to his forward jump off point, he also suffered from his seemingly usual run of bad dice although my own had turned a bit after the excellent opening volleys against the first British squad. Flush with victory now as that squad eventually broke, my forces all began to advance, the Germans could now bring overwhelming fire to bear on the remaining British and the right flank squad could make their way through the wood and off the table without fear of being caught. Phil withdrew from his positions.

Once again Phil had given himself a tough job and many of his command throws did not do him any favours despite only having a few units on the table, discretion being the better part of valour he conceded the game was a bogie as we Scots say. Despite the chance to use one of Phil's lovely tanks I went for leaders and quantity and it worked this time, a nice simple straightforward game and a chat on wargaming at the end, a good evening.

Saturday, 8 May 2021

Friends, who needs 'em

 I think it was Tuesday morning, although one customer had the nerve to complain I was 'grumpy' on Wednesday as well, so it might have been Wednesday, whatever day it was I turned the radio on and did not like nor agree with much of what I heard, then I looked at all my boxes of troops old and new, Normandy countryside, Russian villages, city scapes etc. and with no face to face games for over a year now and with almost another fortnight to wait I hovered over skip hire in Yellow Pages. OK a tad dramatic but you get the idea. By that afternoon I was back on an even keel, rant over.

Although I had decided no more new troops for a few months and no major projects until next year I have been looking closely at Stalingrad recently and most of the area is pretty flat with ruined houses and rubble, nothing like Berlin or Budapest so I decided on a bit of retail therapy. Charlie Foxtrot do a couple of 'razed' houses perfect for the Russian front and other periods, the owner is Colin Farrant, a friend. My order went in and the kits were despatched tout sweet. Within 24 hours I had them built, primed, weathered and ready to go. I also dressed up an Old West building with a few added planks as if the builders had fled the Hitlerites or the owner had run out of rubles.

My sons were on the phone that night to cheer me up and No.1 decided he was coming up to see me for the weekend, although possibly the main attraction was his mum's cooking as he was adamant he was not playing wargames.

Also on the evening of my rant an email came in from friend and fellow blogger Phil asking me if I would like to remotely take control of some Volksgrenadiers for one of his mini-campaign games next Friday, naturally I said "Jawohl."

Club friend Rob Martin is keeping me entertained also by running a World War Two naval campaign. I am in charge of the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow, we were told to expect the Scharnhorst and Gniesenau raiding into the Atlantic, but we have been humbugged and the Germans have invaded Iceland! Several actions have taken place and HMS Hood has managed to sink KMS Admiral Hipper and one of the German convoys has been attacked. I am now hoping to join Hood and bring on a fleet action to stop the Jerries in their tracks.

I had to draw my own map.

Two large parcels arrived, I shouted upstairs at the missus to inquire what she had been buying, my name is always on parcels as Amazon etc. use my email. Not mine was the reply, so I tore one open "it's a game," who would send me a game, then the penny dropped, friend Julian sometimes uses my address as a drop off point, and he had phoned me but I had forgot. I got to the second parcel and noticed friend Matt Smith's name on it, it was heavy, surprised I opened it up. The contents were all wrapped in bubble wrap and out fell a packet of soldiers, French WWII to be precise, on further inspection there were enough metal troops to field a complete platoon along with supports. Matt has a large lead mountain and several projects on the go so decided I would get the Frenchies combat ready and use them before he managed to get around to it, it took hours to wipe the smile from my face.

 Having been pulled back to painting I decided to jump right in and worked out what tanks and guns I would need to complete the French infantry, by the time I finished I hesitated at the cost, the LMF could stand it but the fall out might cost me dear. Again Matt came to the rescue with a discount deal and he saved me a whopping £50 on the order, I would present this as a victory to the Memsahib when the parcel arrives, take that you capitalist lackeys.

Before I start the French I have a couple of SYW heavy limbers to finish and a few more small gardens, I used a couple of old bases for two of these and will use the extra bases from the limbers to do another three. 

So there we are, a great week thanks to friends, now which paints do I need, oh and bases, and more magnets and ...............................

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Fighting for Uncle Joe

 Despite the nay sayers and the unbelievers I think I have just finished my last WWII vehicles, at least for most of this year. Although you do not get a lot of transports on a WWII skirmish table I really want to use them, even if just for scatter terrain or behind the lines as HQ, this is why I added the little Sdkfz 250/1 to my Early War forces, that and the fact I cannot resist German halftracks. Although I have quite a few German early tanks or tank hunters I just had to have the iconic StuG III, only Warlord do an early version so I got it, it is resin and although I have seen better fitting tracks it is a nice piece. Last up is a late war Soviet tank destroyer, many moons ago I thought Rubicon were offering a 3 for 2 deal or some such but I cocked up and was disappointed to find one of the kits was an upgrade to make either an SU-85 or an SU-100 so you needed the original model, the kit went on the shelf. In a mad moment I decided to use the upgrade and built the SU-100, only then did I learn that it did not turn up until around December 1944, perhaps I should just have went for the SU-85. No matter, all three are now done. Now I just need to get them all on the table.

 I have just finished Book 6 of the sci-fi Expanse collection, a blip for me in reading material, I enjoyed the conclusion and won't give it away just in case, but have now decided to get back to some 'real' books before tackling 7 and 8. So in keeping with my new interest in the Eastern Front I got three books by David Stahel which basically cover 1941 up until the Soviet winter offensive around Moscow. While surfing this morning I notice Max Hastings has a new book coming out in May dealing with 'Operation Pedestal' the convoy which basically saved Malta for us, as I really enjoy Hastings (only his spy book let me down) I have pre-ordered it. With what I have on standby I now have enough books to last me until 2022.

 I have had some serious issues with maps over the last couple of days, my portable hard drive which I use to move between the PC in the Post Office and the one in my study corrupted and did some crazy things to a couple of my projects, putting a map of the Ottoman Empire where a map of the Battle of Vitoria should have been for instance. I had to draw one project three times as I stupidly saved the new maps to the drive again, yes I know. I have now got a new SSD drive coming and working on the PC drives instead of relying on portables, thank god I have about four back ups of the Atlas.

So, wargaming, Phil again set up a Battlegroup game with his gorgeous forces last night, a scenario from Wargames, Soldiers and Strategy, where some desperate German defenders during the last months of the war attempt to stop a Soviet attack. Phil took command of the Hitlerites and he had an uphill job with only one platoon and a Pak 40 to halt the Russian steamroller, I on the other hand had two platoons, three T-34's and an IS-2. Normally I would just have run these forces straight at the enemy hoping to simply overwhelm him with my Zhukov hat on, but as I was attacking over open ground and I was unsure what reserves the Jerries had I wanted my tanks to take out the Pak 40 before throwing caution to the wind.


I had an air attack and a barrage to help me but these turned out to be more or less ineffective. I pushed my first infantry platoon forward at a rush while the tanks held back and shot up the anti-tank gun, I say shot up but in fact they shot up everything round about the gun for several turns doing no damage at all. Thankfully the Pak crew were also not up to scratch and merely pinned one tank throughout the battle. Phil's defenders opened up and went for kills rather than pinning which is a bit unusual in Battlegroup, but it was working as quite a few of my foot sloggers hit the dirt. 

 A Nebelwerfer barrage came roaring down but as Phil had expected me to be half way to Berlin by then it hit fresh air. My infantry were now up and I too went for kills and the butcher's bill climbed for both sides. Some Jerry squads turned up but no tanks or heavy guns, it was time for Ivan to rush forward. Within a few turns the Germans had been whittled down and a terrible orders roll at the wrong time allowed the Soviets to recover and close in on the objective. Phil raised a white flag as the writing was on the wall as my second platoon was now up and adding their firepower to the attackers.

 So another entertaining evening ended. An interesting battle, the Pak was pretty much useless this time but it could quite easily have shot up most of the Russian armour, however with two Soviet platoons closing in it may have fallen to an assault, who knows, even with luck I think the Germans would have to work hard to win this one. A big thanks once again to Phil for organising.